Castle in the Ground Image

The film’s measured, deeply touching first half morphs into a suspenseful, somewhat convoluted second. The oversaturation of plot is forgivable when the result is this magnificently offbeat and wrenchingly sad (forgive my own adverb oversaturation). Klein creates a vivid portrait of loss and mourning, of concurrently seeking connection and escape. But Castle in the Ground also functions as a fierce indictment of a corrupt system. “When I needed one to get better, you gave me a hundred,” Ana shouts at the pharmacist, who refuses to give her a prescription, “and now I need a hundred, and you’re just giving me one?”

“…mesmerizing, if imperfect…”

Alex Wolff is one of the most charismatic young actors working today, as showcased in his scene-stealing turn in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. Here, he displays a kaleidoscopic range of emotion, proving, again, that he can effortlessly carry a movie. Wolff gets powerful support from Imogen Poots. She is an absolute livewire, inhabiting the role of a tweaked-out addict with such ferocious commitment and precision, it becomes painful to observe. Her each move is calculated, her each glance carrying meaning. She pulls off the rare feat of making you fall for her scheming character. Her natural charm, her continuous search for, well, herself, and her mischievous smile shines through the manipulative exterior. You won’t be able to take your eyes off Poots. Specials kudos must go out to Neve Campbell, who casts a lingering impression in a small part.

“Can you change the ringtone?” Henry asks Ana when his mother’s phone blares in her pocket. After the death of a loved one, we all want to cling on and to forget. This dichotomy is just one of the things Klein touches upon in the mesmerizing, if imperfect, Castle in the Ground. Do yourself a favor and follow its protagonist down this strange and beautiful rabbit hole.

Castle in the Ground (2020)

Directed and Written: Joey Klein

Starring: Alex Wolff, Imogen Poots, Tom Cullen, Keir Gilchrist, Neve Campbell, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Castle in the Ground Image

"…you won’t be able to take your eyes off Poots..."

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